Two more people have tested positive for the Ebola virus in Uganda, after a boy succumbed to the disease.
The boy, who died on Tuesday night, was the first reported case of Ebola within Uganda’s borders.
Uganda’s Health Minister Ruth Aceng on Wednesday said the boy’s grandmother and brother tested positive for Ebola.
The child’s family had travelled to DRC to attend a funeral and returned home on June 9. He was taken to hospital after showing Ebola-like symptoms.
Seven people are suspected to have the virus and are being monitored. They include some of the boy’s family members who are being monitored at the Ebola Treatment Unit in Bwera, Kasese District, western Uganda, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Uganda said cross border collaboration and a strong surveillance and screening system helped the country identify and detect the first case early and trace those who might have been in contact with the victim.
Uganda has a porous border with the DRC where hundreds of people move across the two countries every day for business and other activities. Growing insecurity in the DRC has also led to a large influx of people streaming into Uganda every day.
“Uganda has been in preparedness mode ever since the Ebola outbreak was declared in the DRC. Now we move into response mode,” Dr Aceng said.
According to a statement from the DRC’s Ministry of Health, the boy who died and six family members had been at the Kasindi isolation centre in DRC before they decided to cross into Uganda.
The centre screens for Ebola.
When they realised the boy and his family had left, the DR Congo health officials contacted their Ugandan counterparts who traced the family to Kagando Hospital.
They were then transferred to the Ebola Treatment Unit in Bwera where samples were taken and sent to the Uganda Virus Research Institute for testing.
According to Dr Aceng, plans are underway to vaccinate everyone who came into contact with the boy, including frontline health workers.
In November 2018, Uganda vaccinated its health workers against Ebola despite there being no outbreak of the disease in the country.
So far 4,700 health workers in 165 facilities that located close to the borders with the DRC have been vaccinated.
Health civil society organisations have urged the African Union to take urgent action to resolve the conflict in the DRC which is hampering efforts to deal with the epidemic.
“If left uncontrolled, the epidemic could destabilise the region especially neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan,” said Dr Peninah Lutung from the Africa Aids Healthcare Foundation.
The government said there will be no restrictions on movement of people between the two countries. However, screening and surveillance will be heightened.
The current outbreak in the DRC was first reported in August 2018. So far, Ebola has led to the death of more than 1,000 people.
By The Eastafrican